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graphic by Marcus Del Greco A Good and Dandy World
by Kenneth Robbins

AT RISE:

MRS. BATEMAN sits in the living room knitting a doily. She hums to herself. JOE enters. He places his lunch pail on the coffee table and thumbs through the newspaper as he takes off hat and coat.

MRS. BATEMAN
Evening, Joe Jackson.

JOE
(Hanging coat and hat on the coat tree beside the main entrance.)
Evening.
(He exits. CORA calls from the kitchen.)

CORA
Joe, is that you?
(Entering living room.)
Joe--is that you?

MRS. BATEMAN
Of course, it is, Cora. Who else would it be? Do you want help
in the kitchen, dear?

CORA
No, Mother.
(JOE returns, sits in his easy chair. He takes the paper
without speaking to CORA.)
You're home late.

JOE
I know.

CORA
You want a cup of coffee before supper?

JOE
Yes.
(She returns to kitchen.)

MRS. BATEMAN
Did you get to do it today, Joe Jackson?
(He ignores her.)
Did you get to pull the switch?
(CORA returns with coffee.)

CORA
You have a good day?

JOE
Fair.

MRS. BATEMAN
Did you get to pull it, Joe Jackson?

CORA
We're having stew and cornbread for supper.

JOE
Fine.

CORA
Well, you just relax.
(She returns to kitchen.)

MRS. BATEMAN
Yes, you just relax, Joe Jackson--

JOE
I intend to.

MRS. BATEMAN
--after your hard day's work. You just relax.

ELVIRA
(Entering from outside.)
Hello, Papa.
(He grunts. She gives him a kiss and goes to kitchen.)
Mama, if anybody calls, I'll get it. It'll be Chuck.

CORA
Who?

MRS. BATEMAN
I'll just relax, too.

ELVIRA
Chuck Thompson.

CORA
Who's he?

ELVIRA
Oh, Mama. I told you. Chuck Thompson--quarterback for the
Mustangs. I told you. He said he would call before he comes to pick me up.

CORA
He's coming to pick you up?

ELVIRA
Yes, Mama. In just a little while. We're going to a movie. And
he said he'd call before he comes.

CORA
I didn't know anything about you going to a movie tonight.

ELVIRA
Well--Chuck asked me--and I said Okay?

CORA
And just when did you decide you were old enough to be making
dates all on your own?

ELVIRA
Oh, Mama, I'm fifteen years old.

CORA
Exactly. You're only fifteen years old.

ELVIRA
Well, Mama, I've got to learn sometime, don't I?

CORA
Learn what?

ELVIRA
Oh, I don't know. If I knew, I wouldn't need to go on dates to
learn. Well, can I go?

CORA
Ask your father.

ELVIRA
Oh, Mama--

CORA
Don't argue. If you want to go to a movie, you'll have to ask your father.

ELVIRA
But you know what he'll say.

CORA
I have a pretty good idea.

ELVIRA
Mama, I've already told Chuck I could go. I can't go back on my
word. He'll never ask me out again!

CORA
Should teach you a lesson then. You'll have to ask your father,
Elvira.

ELVIRA
Oh, Mama.
(She goes into living room.)
Papa?

JOE
Hmmm.

ELVIRA
Nothing.

MRS. BATEMAN
Elvira, you look very pretty tonight, dear. Are you going
somewhere special?

ELVIRA
I'm not sure anymore.

MRS. BATEMAN
Looking as pretty as you do, you should go somewhere and show
yourself off. That's what I think.

ELVIRA
Papa?

JOE
Hmmm.

ELVIRA
Did you have a good day today?

JOE
I'm busy.

ELVIRA
I was just wondering.

JOE
Elvira, I'm busy, so come on out with it. What do you want?

ELVIRA
Chuck's asked me to go to a movie with it--him tonight.

JOE
So?

ELVIRA
Can I go?

JOE
Who's Chuck?

ELVIRA
Just one of my friends at school. Real nice. He's real nice,
Papa--one of the nicest boys in school. I know you'll like him.

JOE
Okay.

ELVIRA
I can go?

JOE
I said okay, didn't I?

ELVIRA
(Hugs his neck.)
Oh, Papa--

MRS. BATEMAN
That's what I said, looking as pretty as--

JOE
I'm trying to read, Elvira.

MRS. BATEMAN
Like I said, looking as pretty as you do--

ELVIRA
(Calling as she goes.)
Mama--he said okay--

CORA
Elvira!

ELVIRA
(Stopping.)
Yes, ma'am?

CORA
Tell your grandmother to wash up. And come in here--I need you.

ELVIRA
But I've got to get ready--

CORA
You're not going to any movie until you've had your supper. Now,
do as you're told.

ELVIRA
Oh. . . darn!
(Mumbling as she goes to MRS. BATEMAN.)
Stupid, ignorant. I'll be so glad when I get eighteen.

MRS. BATEMAN
What, dear?

ELVIRA
Nothing! Go wash up.

MRS. BATEMAN
Oh, all right. I am a bit hungry tonight. Won't you come with me?

ELVIRA
I've got to help in the kitchen! Now, hurry up. Supper's about ready.
(Goes into kitchen.)

MRS. BATEMAN
All right, dear. I'm hurrying.
(Waddles to exit.)

CORA
Set the table. We're ready to eat.

ELVIRA
Oh, darn.

CORA
Watch your tongue, young lady. I'll not have language like that
in my house. Now, set the table.

ELVIRA
Why can't Jo help? She's not an invalid.

CORA
Don't begrudge your sister. It's not Christian.

ELVIRA
I'm not. It's just not fair, that's all.

CORA
No--we're not using plates tonight. Get out the soup bowls.

ELVIRA
Soup?

CORA
Beef stew and cornbread.

ELVIRA
Cornbread. I hate cornbread.
(Phone rings.)
I'll get it!!
(She rushes to phone. In a very sweet voice.)
Jackson residence. Elvira speaking.
(Disappointed.)
Oh, yeah, he is. Would you like to speak to him? . . Well, yes,
I suppose so. . . Sure. . . Are you positive you don't want to. .
. Yes, ma'am, of course. But I'm sure he would be glad to--She hung up.

JOE
Who was it?

ELVIRA
Don't know. She asked if you were in and if you planned going
out later on.

JOE
Did they say who it was?

ELVIRA
No, sir. It was a woman. She said she would probably drop by
sometime tonight and said to tell you not to leave or anything.

JOE
Oh, well, another of those crackpots. Another smark-aleck having
some kicks.

ELVIRA
She sounded serious, Papa.
JOE
They always do. Just another crackpot. Harmless.

CORA
(Coming from kitchen.)
Wash up, you two. Supper's ready. Elvira, did you tell you grandmother?

ELVIRA
Yeah.

CORA
Have you seen your sister?

ELVIRA
Good Lord, no. And I hope I don't.

JOE
Shouldn't speak of your sister that way, Elvira.

ELVIRA
She was into my perfume again, Papa. I'm going to bust her
brains in when I get my hands on her.

CORA
You stop that kind of talk this minute, young lady. Go wash for supper.
(ELVIRA exits.)
Who was that on the phone, Joe?

JOE
I don't know. Not important. Just another crackpot is all.

CORA
Wish they'd leave us alone. It makes me nervous, the way they're
always calling and never saying anything.

JOE
Mama, don't let them bother you. That's why they do it--to bother us.

CORA
Well, put down the paper and wash before supper gets cold.
(She goes to kitchen and the back door, calls.)
Joey.
(No answer.)
Josephine!
CORA (Continued)
(No answer.)
Josephine, if you hear me, you better answer.
(No answer.)
Josephine Elizabeth Jackson!!!

JOEY
(From off.)
Yes, Mama?

CORA
Supper's getting cold. Come here fore I scrape it to the dogs!

JOEY
(Off.)
Yes, Mama.

CORA
(Dishing up food.)
Joe Jackson, did you hear me call supper?

JOE
Sure did.

CORA
Then, act like it.
(Calling as JOE enters kitchen and JOEY enters from back porch.)
Mother! Supper's ready!

JOE
(Swinging JOEY around.)
Hello there, Josephine, my Jo. How is my darlin little Joey tonight? Hey?

JOEY
Your darlin little Joey's simply hunky-dory. Don't drop me, Papa.

JOE
I couldn't drop my favorite little girl.
(He puts her down. CORA returns. JOE sits at table.
ELVIRA and MRS. BATEMAN enter kitchen.)

CORA
Get the silver, Joey.

JOEY
Yes, ma'am.

CORA
Pour the milk, Elvira. You want milk or coffee, Mother?

MRS. BATEMAN
It doesn't matter to me one way of the other, dear.

JOE
Pour me a glass, Elvira.

ELVIRA
Does grandmother want milk, too?

MRS. BATEMAN
Doesn't matter to me one way or the other.

CORA
She wants coffee. Don't need forks tonight, Joey--spoons and butter knife.

JOEY
Yes, ma'am.
(ELVIRA pushes JOEY as they pass. JOEY turns on her
sister, kicking. ELVIRA squeals.)

CORA
Children! Children!!

JOE
What's the matter with you, Elvira?

ELVIRA
She kicked me.

JOEY
Well--she pushed me.

ELVIRA
You darn little moron. Now I'll have the biggest darn bruise
you've ever seen--

CORA
You two! Stop all the fuss. Josephine, wash your hands.
ELVIRA
See, Granny?

MRS. BATEMAN
My, my. The biggest little bruise I've ever seen.

ELVIRA
You little brat--

JOE
Sit down you two.
(Everyone is seated.)

JOEY
Papa, my teacher said today that--

CORA
Hush, Joey.
(All bown heads.)

JOE
(Head bowed, he waits until there is quiet.)
Dear Lord, take this food and make it a nourishment to our
bodies. Keep us in health and spirits. Look over and protect
us. Let us forgive our enemies and help our enemies to forgive
and forget. In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ we ask these
favors. . . Amen.

JOEY
Pass the cornbread.
(Everyone eats.)
Papa, did you get to pull the switch today?

ELVIRA
I'm not hungry, Mama.

CORA
If you're going to a movie, you're going to eat.

JOEY
Elvira's going to a movie?

ELVIRA
That's right, moron, and you can't go.
JOEY
Papa? I want to go to a movie, too.

MRS. BATEMAN
I'll take you, honey.

CORA
Mother, not now.

JOE
You can't go, darlin.

JOEY
Why not? Elvira's going to a movie. Why can't I go?

JOE
A movie, Elvira?

ELVIRA
You said I could. I have a date.

JOE
A date? Who's this date?

ELVIRA
I told you.

CORA
Chuck Thompson, Joe. He plays quarterback for the Mustangs.

JOE
The kid who threw five interceptions last night against Fayette
County? What do you want to date him for, Elvira? He's the
worst excuse for a football player the Mustangs ever suited up.

ELVIRA
He is not! Don't you dare say that about him, Papa. He is not!

CORA
It's all right, sweetheart.

JOEY
Chuck Thompson is the worse football player the Mustangs ever put
a suit on!
ELMIRA
Shut up, brat!

JOE
You saw the game last night, Mama. He threw five interceptions.
Two of them led to touchdowns. Why, in my day, if anybody threw
five interceptions, they'd be benched from now till they turn forty.

CORA
Enough, Joe.

JOE
Then, two weeks ago, against South Cobb, he fumbled the ball four
times and tossed a lateral five feet over his halfback's head--

ELVIRA
Oh, Papa. . . I hate you!
(She rushes from the room. JOE sits, stunned.)

MRS. BATEMAN
My, such a temper in my days would have been--

JOE
What was that all about?

CORA
Sometimes, I think men're the stupidest creatures the Good Lord
ever peopled this world with.

MRS. BATEMAN
That was the very thing I said to my Mr. Bateman once. I said,
Mr. Bateman, I think you are--

JOE
What did I say?

MRS. BATEMAN
I was saying about Mr. Bateman--

JOE
The kid threw five interceptions last night. Am I exaggerating?
Check the sports page. It wasn't my fault he threw five
interceptions. If the coach hadn't taken him out, he'd probably
thrown five more. I didn't say a word about his hanging out at
JOE (Continued)
that pool hall or driving that little sports car with no muffler.
If I'd said anything about that, then Elvira'd have reason to get
upset. But I didn't. Not a word.

MRS. BATEMAN
As I was saying--

JOEY
Elvira was crying.

JOE
I'm glad there's one woman in this house with a little sense.
Ain't that right, Joey.

JOEY
I've got a little sense.

MRS. BATEMAN
I don't feel up to taking you to a movie tonight, honey.

JOE
Should I go up to her?

CORA
She'll be all right.

MRS. BATEMAN
I have this backache, you see. . .

JOE
Why didn't you bear me some men-children, woman, like you
promised?

CORA
(A glance at JOEY.)
Hush, Joe.

JOE
Can't even make casual conversation in my own home anymore.

JOEY
Papa?

JOE
Yes, sugar.

JOEY
My teacher told me I ought to tell you about what happened at
school today.

JOE
Okay, tell me.

JOEY
Well. . . I got into a fight.

JOE
Ah, now, Princess, why did you do that? You know I've told you
fighting is a man's game. It's not lady-like.

JOEY
I had to.

MRS. BATEMAN
Has she been fighting again?

CORA
You didn't get hurt, did you, Josephine?

JOEY
No, ma'am. But the other girl did. I just about pulled her hair
out.

JOE
I told you last time, Joey, that if you got into another fight,
I'd have to punish you. Remember? After supper, I'll see you in
your room.

JOEY
But I had to, Papa.

MRS. BATEMAN
It's worse than football, fighting.

JOE
No, you didn't. We've already discussed this. There is never
any reason to fight. It isn't Christian.

JOEY
The bastard called you a murderer!

CORA
Josephine Elizabeth Jackson!

JOEY
I'm sorry, Mama.

CORA
And well you should be. I've told you never to use dirty words
like that! I'm a mind to send you from the table this minute.

JOEY
Papa uses that word.

CORA
That doesn't matter. He doesn't know any better, but you do.

JOEY
I'm sorry.

MRS. BATEMAN
It's a sign of bad upbringing, words like that.

CORA
Mother, please.

MRS. BATEMAN
All right. I know I'm meddling again, but that's what it is--bad
upbringing. When I was a child, we never heard such words--

JOEY
(Under her breath.)
Well, she shouldn't have called my Papa a murderer.

CORA
That's enough, Joey.

JOE
Why would any kid say something like that about me?

JOEY
I pulled her hair out. And my teacher said I had to tell you. .
. . so one of you can come to school with me on Monday.

JOE
Mama?

CORA
I'll take her in. What was the girl's name, Joey?

JOEY
Laura.

CORA
Laura what?

JOEY
Sullivan. I don't know. Why would she call you a murderer, Papa?

JOE
I wouldn't know, sugar. Just some crackpot. Don't worry about it.

JOEY
I had to fight her, Papa. I couldn't let her call you a murderer
and get away with it.

CORA
That's enough. Finish your supper, sweetheart.

MRS. BATEMAN
It's bad upbringing, that's what it is. That's all I have to say
about it. . . bad upbringing. In my day--

JOE
Don't start, Mrs. Bateman. Now's not the time or place.

MRS. BATEMAN
Now, just a minute, Joe Jackson. I've got my right to say my
piece just as much--

CORA
Mother, not now, not in front of Joey.

MRS. BATEMAN
Well. I certainly know where I'm not wanted.

CORA
Oh, mother, please.

JOE
Let her sulk, Cora. She enjoys it.

MRS. BATEMAN
Of all the-- Well, I never--
(She slams her spoon and storms from the room through the
living area.)

JOEY
What's the matter with Granny?

CORA
Nothing.

JOEY
It was something Papa said again, wasn't it.

CORA
Finish your supper.

JOEY
Full. Can I go outside and play?

CORA
Drink your milk first.

JOEY
Mama. . .

CORA
You heard me.

JOEY
(Drinks her milk.)
Uch!
(Starts to the door.)
I'm going over to Jane's house, bye.
(Exits.)
JOE
Why would some kid want to say something like that about me?

CORA
(Clearing table.)
Now, don't worry about that. It was just some sort of game the
children were playing.

JOE
What's wrong with our kids, Mama? One gets into fights at
school, and the other screams at me and runs away as if she's
afraid of me or something. I don't understand our children sometimes.
(Phone rings. A squeal of "I'll get it" comes from off. ELVIRA rushes into living room and answers phone. MRS. BATEMAN appears briefly.)

MRS. BATEMAN
If it's for me, I'm not in.
(She goes.)

ELVIRA
(On phone.)
Jackson residence, Elvira speaking. Oh, hi, Chuck! Yeah, sure.
Okay, I'll be ready. Hurry, okay? Bye bye.
(Hangs up phone and runs out.)

JOE
See? I don't understand her. Sometimes I get the feeling she
really wants me to understand.

CORA
You want some banana pudding?

JOE
Later. Why don't you get your mother to help with the dishes?

CORA
She just gets in the way.

JOE
(Rubs his stomach and pushes his chair from the table.
CORA washes dishes.)
Good stew, Mama.
(He slips his arms around her waist.)
You know the way to a man's heart.

CORA
Now, Joe--

JOE
I don't care for any of your old banana pudding. I want another
dessert, something sweeter.

CORA
Joe! Elvira might hear--

JOE
Let her. It's time she learned if she doesn't already know.

CORA
That reminds me. You should have a talk with that daughter of
yours. She's getting awfully grown up these days.

JOE
Elvira's still a baby.

CORA
Babies don't have dates. Now, stop it, Joe. Josephine might come in.

JOE
Let her. How does she figure she got here anyway?

CORA
Hush. you're embarrassing me. Now go away. I've dishes to wash.

JOE
Woman, you are cruel. All I want is to tell you how much I lust
for you.

CORA
Tell me as you dry the dishes.

JOE
(Doorbell)
I've better things to do.
(He goes to door in living room.)

MRS. BATEMAN
There's somebody at the front door, Joe Jackson.

JOE
I heard it.

ELVIRA
Papa, if that's Chuck, tell him I'll be right down. And Papa.
Be nice to him, please?

JOE
Of course I'll be nice to him. I'm always nice to everybody,
that's the way I am. May I open the door, please?

ELVIRA
Oh--tell him I'll hurry as fast as I can.

JOE
Mrs. Bateman, what did Elvira say this kid's last name was?

MRS. BATEMAN
Sullivan.

CORA
Thompson, Joe.
(Doorbell.)
And hurry.

JOE
I'm coming, I'm coming.
(Opens door. There stands a short boy of seventeen.)
Well, Mr. Thompson. Won't you come in?

CHUCK
Thank you, sir.

JOE
I don't think we've met. I'm Elvira's father.

CHUCK
I've heard about you, sir.

JOE
Really? Well, come in, come in. This is Mrs. Bateman, Elvira's
grandmother on her mother's side--
(MRS. BATEMAN nods.)

CHUCK
Good to meet you, Mrs. Bateman.

MRS. BATEMAN
Um hm.

JOE
Have a seat. Elvira'll be late--as usual. I think it's genetic.
(He sits. Pause.)

MRS. BATEMAN
I'm Elvira's grandmother.

CHUCK
Yes, ma'am.

MRS. BATEMAN
On her mother's side.

CHUCK
Yes, ma'am.
(Pause. Chuck is ill-at-ease. He takes out a cigarette
and lights up. He puffs. JOE stares at him.)
Uh--mind if I smoke?

JOE
Yes.

CHUCK
Yes, sir.
(Puts his cigarette out.)

JOE
Is that why you threw five interceptions last night?

CHUCK
I beg your pardon?

JOE
The Mustangs shouldn't have lost.

CHUCK
Well--uh, yeah.

MRS. BATEMAN
Football. It's always football.

JOE
I think the Mustangs could stand a great deal of improvement.

CHUCK
Yes, sir. A great deal of improvement.

JOE
Then, why do you smoke?

CHUCK
Oh, I don't. Not much. Every once in a while. Not very much at
all, really.

JOE
Smoking use to be against training rules.

CHUCK
Yes, sir.

JOE
In my day, Coach Phillips was a stickler for the rules.

CHUCK
He kicked three guys off the team last year because they drank a
little beer. That's ridiculous, don't you think? I mean, to
kick three of your best players off the team because they had one
measly little beer? Jeez. . . that's stupid.

JOE
Well. If it comes to that, enforcing the rules, no matter what
the game, Mr. Thompson, I'm all for it. It's not how good or bad
you play. It's how close you follow the rules. And Mr.
Thompson, you can't throw anything but interceptions if you've
got smoke in your eyes. That's in the rules, too, you know.

CHUCK
Oh, I agree, one hundred per cent, yes, sir.

MRS. BATEMAN
Football. That's all you hear, night and day.

CORA
(Entering.)
You must be Chuck.

CHUCK
(Jumping up.)
Yes, ma'am.

CORA
I'm Elvira's mother. Keep your seat, keep your seat. Elvira.
Chuck's here. You better hurry.

ELVIRA
Mama, could you come up a minute?

CORA
What for, honey?

ELVIRA
Just come up! Okay?

CORA
Excuse me. Won't be a minute.

JOE
Cora, did you know Mr. Thompson smokes?

CORA
Oh, dear.

CHUCK
Not very much. I'm quitting.

JOE
That's why the Mustangs lost last night. Mr. Thompson took a smoke break.

CORA
Don't tease, Joe. She'll be down in less than a minute, Chuck.
(She goes. JOE returns to his paper.)

CHUCK
(Awkward pause.)
Nice evening.

MRS. BATEMAN
Beg pardon?

CHUCK
Nice evening we're having.

MRS. BATEMAN
I haven't noticed.

JOE
Why does Phillips play you at quarterback anyway? How tall are you?

CHUCK
Five nine.

MRS. BATEMAN
Five nine?

CHUCK
Well, actually, I'm uh five six and a half.

JOE
You'd make a fine tailback. I'll talk to Phillips about that
next time I see him. If we lose the next game.

CHUCK
Oh, we're not going to lose next week. We're playing Simmons and
there's no way we could lose to them. They're the lousiest team in the state.

JOE
That a fact.

MRS. BATEMAN
Yes--it is a rather nice evening, dear.

CHUCK
(Pause.)
I hear you work at the penitentary, Mr. Jackson.

JOE
Yeah. You know, I've not missed a Mustang game in over twenty
years. . . except for the War. I played center for the state
championship team fifteen years ago.

CHUCK
That so. I didn't know that.

JOE
Center, state championship team. We had a reunion last month.
Oh, that was something, a thrill. Biggest thing to happen in
Prosperity. Back in the days when boys were boys and men were
men and nothing in between. All this talk about weird people.
Can't pick up the paper without seeing all those weird people.
Who they trying to impress with all that colored hair? Makes me
want to get out my razor and bleach and do a job.

CHUCK
Yes, sir.

MRS. BATEMAN
Amen.

JOE
Yes, sir. Then was a time when men knew what rules were and that
there were no in-betweens. It was a sin to break one of Coach
Phillips' rules--and noboby broke them. Then, it was the
American flag and Pledge of Allegiance. Yeah.

CHUCK
Elvira didn't tell me you played for the Mustangs. Oh, I've
heard a lot about those old days.

JOE
Then, a training rule was sacred as the Holy Gospel. Sacred as
if the Lord Jesus Christ Himself spoke the words. But, the
Gospel's not all that cherished anymore. So why should training
rules be any more so?

MRS. BATEMAN
No respect.

CHUCK
What exactly do you do at the penitentiary, Mr. Jackson?

JOE
I'm a guard most of the time. Good job. Yes, sir, I played
center. Back in the good old days in Mustang history. That was
JOE (Continued)
some year. I graduated high school, married the prettiest gal in
Prosperity, had a little one just nine months later. Don't waste
time, Mr. Thompson, that's what I always say.

MRS. BATEMAN
Joe Jackson, don't talk that way in front of that baby.

JOE
Yes, sir, red-letter year for Joe Jackson.

CHUCK
You know Coach Phillips?

JOE
He's a second father to me, boy.

CHUCK
I think you're right, sir, about the training rules.

MRS. BATEMAN
You shouldn't talk that way, Joe Jackson. It ain't Christian.

CORA
(Returning.)
She'll be right down, Chuck.

CHUCK
There's no hurry. The movie doesn't start for an hour.

CORA
That right? Well, what're you to do the hour before it starts?

CHUCK
Stand in line, I guess. It's a real popular movie and you have
to stand in line to get tickets.

JOE
Popular. Violence, I bet. Or sex. Lot of shooting and drinking
whiskey and driving sports cars at a hundred miles an hour.
Worse. Hope it's not one of those sinful movies I've heard so much about.

CHUCK
It's a real good movie, sir.
CORA
Joe, if Josephine comes in, tell her I want her in the kitchen.
(She goes.)

MRS. BATEMAN
When I was a young lady, it was unheard of for a gentleman to
escort one to a movie--or to a theatre of any kind. Unheard of.
Sinhole--that's what it was. Still is, from what I hear. All
these dirty films. You can't watch television anymore without
embarrassment. . .

JOEY
(Skipping in.)
Hello, Papa.

JOE
Your mother wants you in the kitchen, Joey.

JOEY
Oh, Papa--

JOE
Don't "Oh, Papa" me. It wasn't my idea. Your mama needs you to
help. You live here, too, don't you?

JOEY
There's a car parked outside at the curb.

CHUCK
That's mine.

JOEY
I'm not talking about that thing. I mean, a car! There's a
woman in it, Papa, just sitting there.

JOE
A woman? What's she doing?

JOEY
Sitting there.

ELVIRA
(Entering.)
Hi, Chuck. Sorry I took so long--
CHUCK
Gee. Wow.

JOEY
Gee. Wow.

ELVIRA
Go away!
(JOEY goes into kitchen.)

CORA
Wipe the table, sweetheart.

CHUCK
You ready?

ELVIRA
You bet.

CHUCK
It was nice meeting you, Mr. Jackson. And you, too, Mrs.
Bateman. Hope to see you again soon.

JOE
Sure you do.

MRS. BATEMAN
It was sweet meeting you, too, dear.

JOE
Remember. Mustangs win next week. That's the way the rules are written.

CHUCK
Yes, sir. Well, good night. Night, Mrs. Jackson.

CORA
Good night, Chuck. Come again.

ELVIRA
Don't leave the light on for me, okay, Mama?

JOE
Mr. Thompson, I don't know if I mentioned this, but Elvira has an
eleven o'clock curfew. She's a minute late and I get the shotgun.
ELVIRA
Oh, Papa.
(She exits. CHUCK gives a half-hearted wave from the door and goes.)

CORA
No wonder she acts toward you the way she does. If I were her,
I'd hate you, too.

JOE
Oh, she doesn't hate me.

CORA
Sometimes she does.

MRS. BATEMAN
In my time, seven-thirty was a luxury. None of this eleven
o'clock business back then--

CORA
Joey, have you done your homework?

JOEY
Oh, Mama--it's Friday.

CORA
I know. And tomorrow's Saturday. And we're going to Grandmother
Jackson's for dinner. Either do your homework tonight or it
doesn't get done. Up stairs and do as I say.

JOEY
Elvira gets to go to a movie. . .

CORA
Now.

JOEY
Elvira didn't do her homework.

CORA
She did hers while you were out playing. Run along. I'll finish in here.

JOEY
(Going through living room.)
Papa, will you help with my homework?

JOE
Later, sweetpea.

JOEY
It's always later. You never have time for me anymore.
(Goes to her bedroom. Doorbell.)

MRS. BATEMAN
I'll help you, dear.
(She continues with her knitting.)

CORA
Was that the front door?

JOE
Think so.
(Doorbell.)

CORA
Were you expecting anyone, Mother?

MRS. BATEMAN
No, but if anybody calls, tell them I'm not in.

CORA
Well--go on, Joe, open the door.
(He does. There stands a woman, dressed in black. JOE
looks at her. She is braced for whatever might happen.)

JOE

Yes?

MRS. SULLIVAN
May I come in?

JOE
What do you want?

MRS. SULLIVAN
To talk to you, if I might. My name is Sullivan--Mrs. Vincent C.
Sullivan.

CORA
Joe, ask her in.

MRS. BATEMAN
Don't you do it, Joe Jackson.

CORA
Mother--

MRS. BATEMAN
I never allowed a total stranger to cross the threshhold of my
home, no sir. Never have, never will, not in my house.

JOE
This isn't your house, ma'am. You're just a stranger here, too,
as far as I'm concerned.
(To MRS. SULLIVAN.)
Come on in.

MRS. SULLIVAN
Thank you.
(Enters.)

MRS. BATEMAN
Well, if this isn't-- Cora! Are you going to let him talk that
way to--

CORA
Go to your room, Mother.

MRS. BATEMAN
You heard what he said--

CORA
To your room, please.

MRS. BATEMAN
Of all the-- I've never in all my life--
(She goes.)

CORA
Please excuse my mother, Mrs. Sullivan. She's. . . not of today
if you know what I mean.

MRS. SULLIVAN
No apologies needed. I know it's late--

CORA
Won't you sit down?

MRS. SULLIVAN
I can stay a few minutes.

JOE
Do we know you?

MRS. SULLIVAN
Not exactly.

CORA
Let me take your coat.

MRS. SULLIVAN
My little girl's at home alone. I can't stay.

CORA
You should have brought her with you.

MRS. SULLIVAN
That would hardly be. . . I will sit, thank you. Am I disturbing anything?

CORA
No, not at all.

JOE
What's this all about?

MRS. SULLIVAN
Our daughters. Josephine, isn't it?

CORA
And your daughter is Laura?

MRS. SULLIVAN
That's right.

JOE
Cora--how did--

MRS. SULLIVAN
Our daughters got into a fight at school today. My Laura claims
she started it by referring to you, Mr. Jackson, in
uncomplimentary terms.

JOE
Joey said she just about pulled the other girl's hair out.

MRS. SULLIVAN
Yes, Josephine is quite able to take care of herself. Really, I
find this embarrassing, apologizing for my daughter's behavior.

CORA
Oh, please, there's no need to apologize. We understand.

MRS. SULLIVAN
Do you?

CORA
Of course. It was a game. I'm sure. Wasn't it, Joe?

JOE
I wasn't there.

MRS. SULLIVAN
It was no game. Laura was sincere in what she said and did. I
have talked with her, Mr. Jackson, and she bears no hard feelings
toward you. After all, you merely did your job.

JOE
Hard feelings? I don't even know the kid.

MRS. SULLIVAN
Laura loved her father very much.

CORA
No doubt.

MRS. SULLIVAN
You don't understand, either of you. I shouldn't have come here.
This is very embarrassing.


JOE
Sullivan. . . Wait a minute. Vince Sullivan. Wasn't he the one
that--uh--
(Describes a vague circle.)

MRS. SULLIVAN
You understand now.

CORA
Well, I don't. What are you-- Oh! OH! Mrs. Sullivan. Oh, I'm so--so--

MRS. SULLIVAN
I don't want your sympathy. It's too late for that. All I want
is to tell you, Mr. Jackson, that Laura did not understand. I
have tried to raise her decently. It's difficult, a father like
Vince. But that's not what I came to ask. I want you to know
that Laura now appreciates the situation as well as you can
expect, and she will apologize to Josephine on Monday.

JOE
She doesn't need to do that. Our Joey didn't think anything
about it. She just likes to fight.

MRS. SULLIVAN
Laura will apologize just the same.

CORA
Are you sure I can't get you some coffee?

MRS. SULLIVAN
No, thank you. This isn't a social visit. Well. . .
(She rises.)

JOE
Is that all you came for, ma'am?

MRS. SULLIVAN
I was wondering if. . . perhaps. . . Did Vince say anything? I
mean--well, you were there. It's important to Laura.

JOE
I don't know what you mean.


MRS. SULLIVAN
In the movies, they always give them a chance for a few last
words. Before. . . I don't know if they do that in real life.
Do they?

JOE
I don't know.

MRS. SULLIVAN
But you were there.

JOE
I just pull the switch.

MRS. SULLIVAN
Wouldn't you hear?

JOE
I didn't know your husband. I didn't know his name until I read
it in tonight's paper. I don't ask to know names or listen to
famous last words. I pull the switch when the man tells me to
and that's all. I don't pay attention to anything that's going
on.

MRS. SULLIVAN
You were there. But you weren't there.

JOE
Go see the warden. He can tell you what you want to know.

MRS. SULLIVAN
He was too busy to see me.

JOE
That jackass is never too busy.

MRS. SULLIVAN
You won't tell me?

JOE
Look--they pay me to throw the switch. I throw the switch. Not
often. When they tell me to do it, I do it. That's all.


MRS. SULLIVAN
I was hoping. . . I've been to the other guard's home. He was
too far away, he said. It's not his job, either, I don't guess,
to listen. Strange. They give him a chance to--to say
something, and nobody listens. It wasn't anybody's job.

CORA
Mrs. Sullivan, I'm. . .

JOE
It's just a job, ma'am.

MRS. SULLIVAN
Of course. Only thing--it means so much to Laura.

CORA
I wish there was something we could--

MRS. SULLIVAN
Forgive me for bothering you.
(She turns to go.)

JOE
By the way, how did you find me?

MRS. SULLIVAN
Why, Mr. Jackson, it's common knowledge that you're the Executioner.
(Exits.)

JOE
(After a long pause.)
Well. I think that banana pudding'd be right good. Banana
pudding and iced tea.

CORA
Yes, it would.
(She goes to kitchen. JOE follows.)
She was really a very nice woman.

JOE
Suppose so.

CORA
Joe--did he say anything?

JOE
No. He just laughed.

CORA
She must have really loved him.

JOE
I don't see how. He was scum.
(She looks at him.)
Why are you looking at me like that?

CORA
Oh, nothing.

JOE
Don't tell me that. I know you. What did you look at me that
way for?

CORA
Oh, Joe.

JOE
Look, Cora, it's a job. They pay me so I do my job.

CORA
You're not eating your pudding.

JOE
Do you know Charlie Hendricks? I saw him just yesterday. He
played linebacker. He was working as a day laborer with that
construction firm up the street. And he was voted most likely
to. You remember Charlie? Most ambitious bastard I've ever known.

CORA
I wish you wouldn't use that word. Joey's getting so she copies
everything you say and do.

JOE
You want me to be like Charlie Hendricks? Slaving for a few
bucks an hour? I should be thankful for my job. It's better than most.

CORA
Did I say anything about that?

JOE
You didn't have to. You looked it.

CORA
They're my eyes. I can look the way I want to.

JOE
Hell. I don't need to apologize for my job. They pay me, so I
pull the switch. It's not like I do it everyday. Just whenever
they tell me to. What's the big deal? I pull the switch, that's
all.

CORA
I know that, Joe. Don't get so upset.

JOE
And I'm not upset!
(He goes to the bedroom.)

CORA
Where are you going?

JOE
To see my baby.
(He enters JOEY's room. She has fallen asleep over her
books. The light is on. He goes to her.)
Joey? Jo?
(He prepares her bed and lifts her from her chair to move her.)

JOEY
Papa?

JOE
Shhhhh. My baby's sleeping. I'm just putting her to bed.

JOEY
Okay.
(He puts her in bed.)
Papa?

JOE
What, sugar?

JOEY
Kiss me good night.
(He does. She crawls from bed and kneels beside it.)
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my should to keep.
And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.
(She returns to bed.)

JOE
Now, close your eyes, and I'll give you my special good night
kiss.
(He kisses her on both eyes.)

JOEY
Night, Papa. I love you.

JOE
Night, sugar.
(He turns out the light. He stands beside her for a time.
He turns and leaves the room. Lights fade.

End of play.)





Kenneth Robbins is the author of four published novels, nineteen published plays, and is the recipient of the Toni Morrison Prize for Fiction, the Associated Writing Programs Novel Award, the Charles Getchell New Play Award, and the Festival of Southern Theatre New Play Award, among many others. He currently resides in Louisiana.

Email: krobbins@latech.edu


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